For many Americans, there are four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall. But for many Democrats, and particularly those who write columns and pundits who spend more time in cable news studios than talking to actual voters, there is a fifth season: bedwetting season.
Democratic bedwetting, a term first coined by President Barack Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe in 2008, describes Democrats’ ability to irrationally overreact to political events and poll numbers to assume immediate electoral doom and gloom.
For many Democrats, it is a rite of passage. And it is a season that comes every election cycle. And while it is ahead of schedule this cycle, due to a series of polls and one columnist calling on Biden to step aside in 2024, we are now in the thick of Democratic bedwetting season.
The major factor driving Democratic angst at the moment is a series of polls showing President Biden either just slightly ahead or slightly behind Donald Trump, despite the fact that Trump is a walking crime scene and carries more political baggage than the cargo hold of a Boeing 747.
But here is the thing bedwetters need to understand: Polls are not predictors of what will happen in the future. They are simply a snapshot of the moment in which they are taken. If polls were such an accurate predictor of the outcome of an election, President Hillary Clinton would be entering the last year of her second term right now and Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell would be presiding over historic Republican majorities in the House and Senate from the supposed “red wave” of 2022.
And polls more than a year out from an election are even less predictive or reliable. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Obama all rebounded from comparable poll numbers a year out from the election to ultimately win reelection.
While polls dominate news coverage, the Sunday shows, and doomscrollers’ time online, a simple look at actual data shows an election that fundamentally favors Biden and Democrats up and down the ballot.
There have been 30 special elections this year, and in those races, Democrats have outperformed each seat’s base partisanship score by an average of 11 points. Those are real people voting in actual elections, not some clickbait poll. And Democrats are overperforming. Consistently and across the board.
Last week alone, we saw Democrats overperform—and win—in two states the Trump campaign has made clear they view as critical to their path to victory: Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.
Democrats this year also won mayoral races in Jacksonville, Florida, and Colorado Springs, Colorado, two Republican-leaning cities; won a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat with 56 percent of the vote; and won a ballot initiative in Ohio with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
Now, off-year special elections aren’t a silver bullet to predict elections a year out either. But they are a far more reliable data point than national polling. And when you pan out, the special elections are following a trend that has been playing out over the last seven years: Voters have constantly rejected Trump and the extremism from the Republican Party in every election since 2016. That trend has only accelerated in the wake of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Add to this trend the fact that Republicans’ traditional built-in advantage in the Electoral College has all but eroded and that Biden has far more paths to the 270 Electoral College votes needed than Trump, and you could reasonably conclude that the 2024 election still fundamentally favors Biden and Democrats.
Jim Messina, the last man to successfully lead a Democratic president’s reelection campaign when he helmed Obama’s reelect in 2012, recently said this election is a choice, not a wish. And while some Democrats (and many pundits) may wish that Joe Biden would step aside and let someone else run, the fact of the matter is there is still tremendous benefit to incumbency.
In the past 90 years, only four incumbents have lost their reelection bids, and of those four, only one was a Democrat. The idea that Democrats would replace a successful incumbent at this point in the cycle—while it may make for compelling cable news and fill column inches—is fictional and delusional.
A year is a lifetime in politics, and a lot can and will happen. The election is going to be close, and don’t believe anyone who tells you today they know how it will turn out. That being said, given the data, the Electoral College shift, and voting trends since the fall of Roe, I would rather be Joe Biden and Democrats today than Donald Trump and Republicans.
So, my advice to the bedwetters is turn off the cable news. Stop scrolling Twitter (or whatever it is called now). Ignore the polls. Take a breath, go outside, and enjoy the actual season it is.
Doug Gordon is a Democratic strategist and co-founder of UpShift Strategies who has worked on numerous federal, state, and local campaigns and on Capitol Hill. He is on X/Twitter at @dgordon52.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.